Castro crime concerns
by Peter Hernandez
Police officials and politicians were met with concern about a spike in crime in the Castro at a community meeting this week where a victim of a recent robbery and aggravated assault made a dire warning.
Concerns of sophisticated tool-assisted break-ins, rampant cellphone thefts, and unresolved late night noise complaints were relayed Monday, January 28 in the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, where police officials often mentioned what they describe as "career burglars."
Resonating through the evening were prominent cases like the recent stabbing at 14th and Noe streets and the November kidnapping and repeated pistol-whipping of a San Francisco resident named Rene Sedivy, who was in attendance.
"Someone is going to get killed here if we don't do anything about it," Sedivy, 41, said. He and a friend were carjacked, robbed of their cellphones, and kidnapped around 11:30 p.m. on November 30, leaving Sedivy with a fractured skull and broken nose.
Police also unveiled sketches of two men who allegedly stabbed and robbed a 34-year-old Castro resident a block away from his home near 14th and Noe streets January 10. His backpack, computer tablet, and tools were stolen while he sustained non-life threatening injuries.
In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter , the victim, Erik Getman, said he's concerned about others doing "not-too-safe-things," like using their phones while walking. He also commended those he's seen walking near streetlights.
San Francisco Police Department Captain Robert Moser, whose Mission Station serves the Castro and Mission districts, warned the community about "career burglars" who seek to turnaround cellphones for hundreds of dollars on the street at the expense of inattentive victims buried in their phones.
Park Station Captain Greg Corrales referenced a theft last week on Eureka Street where men used ski masks and a realistic air gun.
"I'm sure those guys were responsible for many acts of break-ins," Corrales said.
Though the trend and suspects of many of the crimes mentioned remained uncertain, it was apparent that people didn't know who to call in the event of a non-emergency or what local crime prevention resources are available.
"We have to come to these community meetings and hear a litany of complaints that weren't called in," Lieutenant Peter Thoshinsky said of the Northern Station's similar surge in cellphone thefts.
Ken Craig, director of volunteer training at Castro Community on Patrol, suggested that those who are concerned about crime in the Castro join his organization.
Greg Carey, director of operations and outreach of CCOP, introduced a pyramid-shaped community safety model representing the layers of response to crime, with the general public at the bottom and accountable crime officials at the top.
CCOP, which organizes volunteers to distribute safe clubbing tips and monitor criminal activity in the Castro, is in the "trained public" portion of the community safety model – in the middle of the triangle.
Sister Pat N Leather of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence suggested that victims seek refuge in businesses that post a "Stop the Violence, Stop Hate" sign in their window.
"The crazier you act, the more they'll stay away from you. You can come in there and scream for help," Leather said.
Residents who attended the meeting remain concerned.
Ana Carolina Almeida, 41, said her front door was broken through in the early morning last year.
"No matter how much I screamed," Almeida said, no neighbors came to her aid.
After confronting the trespasser, he stole both her cellphones; she credits her landline for the burglar's immediate arrest. She is now considering joining a neighborhood watch.
Other residents continued to discuss their fears throughout the meeting.
"I'm concerned they haven't been connecting the dots," said one homeowner at the meeting. One of her neighbors' glass doors had been cut through for a burglary.
Merchants and residents alike decried the Castro's ubiquitous late night revelers.
Jeff Johnson, 42, owns a tax group on the block of SF Fitness and the Cafe. He complained about late-night noise by revelers and defecation at his doorstep.
"It's not right," Johnson said. He is a trained volunteer of CCOP but dislikes that he must patrol in a group of three or more rather than alone.
Hours of darkness during thefts and sophisticated methods of breaking in remained commonalities throughout the evening, but police insisted that some cases were still undergoing investigation or that plainclothes surveillance is already in place.
Mariva Aviram, 43, who lives on Grand View between 24th and 25th streets, found that the front door of her building had been broken into using a vice and a crowbar in the early morning last year. Since then she said she's lived in a state of paranoia.
At the meeting police responded to her comment with assurance that her neighborhood has plainclothes officers on duty in the late night.
"I like what I heard," Minerva said. "But I'll believe it when I see it."
Call 911 in the event of a crime if there's a good chance of catching the perpetrator.
Report noise or crimes after the incident without a chance of catching the perpetrator at (415) 553-0123.
Call 311 to complain about broken streetlights or uneven pavement.
Call the Mission Station's anonymous tip line, (415) 552-4558, with leads to the November 30 carjacking, kidnapping, and theft.
Call the main SFPD anonymous tip line, (415) 575-4444, for the January 10 stabbing (case #: 130 027 552).
Join the Castro Community on Patrol at castropatrol.org or e-mail Ken Craig, director of volunteer training, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips from Project SAFE
Limit your valuables by carrying only what you need for the day.
Never leave valuables unattended.
Protect laptop computers by carrying them in non-descript bags.
Be alert and aware at all times on the street. Keep eye contact with those around you. Most victims are targeted because they don't seem alert.
A handbag or book bag shouldn't be worn around the body, but rather under the arm to be released if grabbed to avoid being pulled to the ground during a theft.
Let another person know your itinerary for the day and your expected time of return.
Build allies in the community where you live and work – you never know when you may need to call them.
Be wise about where you choose to listen to digital music players in public. It is distracting and causes potential danger.
Sketches of the January 10 suspects are online.
Seth Hemmelgarn contributed to this report.